Гражданское общество как среда производства и распространения социальных инноваций
Social innovation is acknowledged as one of the most promising tools of civic engagement and cross-sector partnerships to address social problems. It benefits society by improving its ability to organize and act and represents a new model of interaction between the state and civil society in addressing social problems. The article assesses the capacities and actual input of the Russian third sector (non-government not-for-profit organizations, or NGOs) in developing social innovation. It considers the essence of social innovation, discusses the critical role of the third sector as a favorable environment for the production of such innovation, and describes structural characteristics of third sector organizations which allow them to play a subjective role in developing and promoting innovative solutions in the social sphere. Based on empirical data on the state of Russia’s third sector and civic participation in NGOs, certain conclusions are made about the potential of the sector as a driver of innovation. We argue that the domestic third sector cannot be regarded as institutionally mature and ready for the production and dissemination of social innovation. In this respect, it is much inferior to European and American counterparts. Innovative initiatives developed by individual citizens as well as by NGOs are rather fragmented. Additional efforts are required to enhance their viability and replicability. Nevertheless, in spite of some inconsistencies, the dynamics of the third sector development and supportive public policies are in general going in the right direction. Policies in this field aim to create favorable conditions for NGOs and thereby strengthen their capacities in facilitating innovative changes in the social sphere.